Cute Leather Box Containing Financial Heart Attack

canadian diamond(Guest post by Jack – a fellow Budgets Are Sexy reader!)

Yes, I am talking about the exciting time of proposing to your significant other! In my case, my girlfriend of 18 months would be the happy recipient of an engagement ring and the man that comes along with that ring! :)

I don’t own a lot of jewelry.  In fact, I only own 2 rings: my class ring from college and a family signet ring.  I know how much those two pieces of jewelry are worth, but I was not prepared for how much a DIAMOND ring costs!  Fortunately, I have a very sensible fiance (she said yes!) and she is not interested in marrying a broke man.  So, we were able to get the ring that she loves without breaking the bank – too much.

While we wanted to purchase a traditional diamond engagement ring, we weren’t very traditional in that I wouldn’t dare buy a ring for my, now fiance, without her actually picking it out herself.  If I’m going to drop a bag full of Benjamins (ok… credit card) on a sweet piece of hardware, my girl would need to be completely satisfied with it.  There is nothing more devastating to me then spending a lot of money on something for someone else, only to find out that they don’t like it.  Both of us went shopping for the ring and had a lot of fun doing so while drinking the free champagne that jewelry stores give you while you’re shopping. ;)

How I paid for it (without crying)

Before I continue with the story, you’re probably wondering, how did I pay for this sparkly, shiny, metal and rock piece of artwork? Fortunately, I had savings!  I didn’t know what I was saving up for, but I’m glad I had a good amount of savings for this financial milestone (or emergency, depending on how you look at it).  A couple of years ago, my ARM mortgage started to adjust to current interest rates.  It worked out that the rate kept adjusting *downward* and I took all of those savings and..put it right into my bank account for safe keeping.  Thank goodness for that.

But, just because I had some savings, we didn’t necessarily want to spend ALL of my savings on a ring.  How did we go about shopping then?  We just went to the jewelry stores and looked for something that appealed to us without even looking at price tags at first.  Every jeweler asked us how much we were looking to spend and we simply replied, “We’re just looking for something that we like.”  The best strategy that worked for us was to shop for the ring first and then figure out the diamond specifics later.  The center diamond was going to account for the majority of the cost of the ring.  We found that most rings we liked, without the center diamond, ranged in price from the 1 to upper 2-thousand dollar range.  The center diamond ended up costing a few multiples of the actual ring.

We shopped at many different jewelers, form the national chain jewelers to the boutique jewelers.  It took us visits to four different stores to really narrow things down.  One particular store offered much more selection in the thinner bands that we were looking for.  So, we went back to that store and asked to move onto the next step of selecting the center diamond for the ring.  Many people know about the 4 C’s of ring shopping: Clarity, Cut, Color and Carat.  These are the most important factors in diamond selection, but for those looking for some extra credit, it would help to pay attention to another set of four criterion: Depth, Table, Ratio and Girdle.  I’ll leave it up to Google to discuss all of those parameters, but here is what mattered most to us: Carat and Color.

My fiance wanted to break into the 1 carat sizing of the diamond, so that is what we did. Something like 1.04 carats.  Now, this is where our financial sense kicked in.  We were willing to sacrifice on the other 3 C’s to get a better price on the diamond.  If we wanted to get a diamond with near perfect Color, Clarity and Cut, we could have easily added thousands of dollars to the price tag.  We were shown a set of diamonds and ended up selecting the one diamond that had a better Color rating, but less Clarity than the other diamonds.  Our reasoning was that you can notice the better color rating with the naked eye much more than an imperfection within the diamond.

Blood Diamonds vs. Canadian Diamonds?

One more thing though, I wanted to be guaranteed that the diamond we selected would not be a “blood diamond.”  There is this thing called the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme that is supposed to ensure that all diamonds are not conflict diamonds.  But, I really don’t buy stock in that certification *scheme* because, well, I just think it is a scheme and I’m a bit cynical. :)  So, I shopped around.. I even found that companies were creating diamonds in machines!  I first made sure that my girl would be ok with a man-made diamond, because girls can be weird about these things. :)  So, after getting the green light, I called one of those companies up and spoke with a sales person for about 25 minutes asking questions about if the diamonds they make are the same, molecularly, as natural diamonds (they are) and if they could make white diamonds in 1 carat sizes.  Unfortunately, they can’t make white diamonds in 1 carat sizes because of current technical limitations.  But, one thing the sales guy said changed my whole outlook on diamond shopping.  He said, “You should just go with a Canadian diamond until we can start making larger white diamonds.”

I had no idea what he was talking about.  Canadian diamonds? I didn’t even know diamonds came from Canada, but after some more Googling, I found that Canada started mining diamonds in 1998 and has a few diamond mines now.  Most importantly, Canada has the highest diamond mining labor and environmental standards in the world, which is something that I care about.  Diamonds that come from Canada are laser inscribed with a goose logo which I try to locate every time we snuggle up on the couch and watch TV, but still haven’t found.  Also interesting is that Canadian diamonds have a predictable combination of Depth, Table, Ratio and Girdle characteristics and are, on average, whiter in color than African diamonds.

Voting with my money

So, back to the jewelry store, where I would be “voting with my money,” I humbly requested that the jeweler present us diamonds that were sourced from Canada. Our sales rep immediately stood up and went to the back room and actually generated quite a buzz in the store about the request.  She then went over to the phone and spoke with a supplier who would ship some diamonds overnight for us to look at.  In the end, we selected a Canadian diamond and had to wait about 6 weeks for our ring to be made in platinum and have the diamond set.  It was worth the wait!

Now, we have another long wait until we finally tie the knot next year. :)

Who knew???  Big ups to Jack for shooting this over — my brain was fried this morning and really thought this was an interesting one.  Go Canada! :)

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  1. Moneycone December 2, 2010 at 8:19 AM

    One of the few things I bought on installment! :)

  2. David Damron December 2, 2010 at 8:26 AM

    I proposed to my girlfriend this past October and this is how it all was approached….

    1) We are living off one income while she is in a masters program. So, we are broke. We decided under $2k was more than enough. This would buy a beautiful half carat.

    2) I decided to only buy the ring if I made the money outside of our normal budget. I do a few things online and was able to earn enough to cover the ring as well as a trip to SoCal on a budget to propose.

    3) I saw the movie Blood Diamond a few years back and decided then to go with a blood-free company. I went with Brilliant Earth in San Francisco and the ring buying experience was perfect.

    4) This whole time, we knew affording our normal livelihood was more important than a physical sign of affection. Even if we made a ton more, we had decided that the rock was not going to make our relationship stronger. Our actions and choices would.

    5) This was the result….

    David Damron

  3. Kevin @ December 2, 2010 at 9:39 AM

    If you own a college class ring, I assume you went to Notre Dame or Texas A&M. Those are the only two schools I’ve ever seen anyone wear a college ring from.

    Nice work on the Canadian diamonds. I’ll have to keep that in the back of my mind for whenever I get to that time of my life (probably never).

  4. corrin December 2, 2010 at 10:02 AM

    First, congratulations!

    Our biggest fault as a couple is being too impulsive – which might explain why we were married in Vegas. We did plan a little (2 weeks) ahead and bought my wedding band from Costco. Yes, Costco. We paid about $1,100 for my 1 carat princess cut platinum band – the quality is exceptional and I’ve yet to find a jeweler that can touch that price. About six months after we were married, we purchased my wedding ring from a local, family owned, jeweler and I am so glad we made that decision. The center diamond cracked (due to the size and the cut the diamond had a weak spot and shattered internally) and they went out of their way to correct the situation as quickly as possible. I was very upset and the owner was a lovely older man who who took a liking to us and helped helped us select a new diamond. I actually ended up with a larger diamond of better quality to compensate for the issue and they earned a lifelong customer. We’ve since moved across country and I continue to have them service my jewelry when I visit family.

  5. Darrell December 2, 2010 at 10:11 AM

    Buy the diamond itself online and the setting at a local brick & mortar. You get waaaaaay more for your dollar buying the diamond online, plus you still get the warranty with the local guy. The brick & mortar won’t cover the actual diamond, but for a few bucks a year you can have it covered by your home owners.

    If you’re worried about how it’ll look when buying online, just stick to the 3 C’s (ignoring carat – size is size) as close as you can and it’ll turn out perfect.

  6. Ariella December 2, 2010 at 10:13 AM

    Corrin, interesting story with a good lesson about how to treat customers. When my brother-in-law got engaged, the diamond also shattered when it was put into the setting. But the diamond and setting were purchased from two different merchants, and each one blamed the other. It got a bit ugly and required official mediation to get it resolved because the diamond seller did not want to refund the money or replace the diamond.

  7. tom December 2, 2010 at 10:28 AM

    Re: 4 C’s

    If you’re looking for sparkle, CUT is the most important, always go for highest quality cut. COLOR and CLARITY matter very little. You can barely tell the difference between a D and J color and there is also very little difference between SI2 and FL clarity.

    The thing that gets a diamond noticed is size and sparkle. Sparkle is 99.9% (.1% by clarity) caused by CUT (those are made up numbers to get the point across). It’s all in light refraction and geometry.

  8. Laura December 2, 2010 at 11:56 AM

    My fiancé had the same mindset as you and took me
    shopping for my engagement ring. We also chose a canadian
    diamond and couldn’t be more thrilled with it. We definitely paid a small premium to get a Canadian diamond but it was worth it. We just got my wedding band from brilliant earth and I was very pleases with their quality. Yay Canada!

  9. katie December 2, 2010 at 12:48 PM

    i wanted a diamond, my husband thought jewelry in general is a rip-off. and we were both worried about conflict diamonds. we ended up getting my .25 carat ring at an antique mall for $250. it’s perfect & sparkly & i could care less what the official “stats” are. by buying used, it didn’t have to be mined. and i just couldn’t see myself wearing thousands of dollars on my finger… i would rather our newly combined bank account be that much fatter :)

  10. Mercedes December 2, 2010 at 1:09 PM

    My DBF has made mention of asking me to marry him, so we have discussed rings somewhat. I am also on the Canadian stone band wagon. Also, like Tom mentioned above, as long as the cut is good and the diamond has sparkle, no one can really tell the clarity or the color, and well, size is size! as long as it fits in the budget! I’ve also thought of going the antique route liek Katie, but am concerned with not REALLY knowing what it is i’m purchasing…

  11. David December 2, 2010 at 2:29 PM

    From shopping for a ring, I learned that color is the least important since you can only see the color difference when the diamond is flipped over on a white background, and even then you have to compare it to the whitest colored diamond. Unless your finance is super pale, she wont be able to tell the difference since the diamond is set and not turned over. The darker your finance the lower grade color you can go up to the point where you can see it the diamond is yellow with your naked eye. Clarity and Cut is most important, you should spend money there instead. I also learned that buying lose diamond is the best way to get the diamond you want, then have it set on a ring. Why put money into a complete ring? You don’t know what quality diamond you’re getting, you don’t know if you’re paying mostly for the setting or the diamond. Also diamonds always look nice under the store’s lighting. Ask to take the diamond outside and look at the difference. Diamonds should always be about quality over quantity. If a over 1 caret diamond looks murky compared to a less than 1 caret sparkly diamond…people notice the sparkly diamond regardless the size.

  12. Emily D. December 2, 2010 at 2:35 PM

    My 3/4 Carat actually has a little flaw. There is a tiny spot down the middle. I actually like that about it because it makes it unique and I always know I am getting “my” diamond back when j get it cleaned.

  13. retirebyforty December 2, 2010 at 3:57 PM

    Nice! Congratulation!!! Dual income is awesome for your net worth.
    Luckily my wife does not care about jewelry at all. Her ring was a dinky ring that was under $500. hahah… score!
    Her weakness are shoes and purses though…. Win some lose some.

  14. Briana @ GBR December 2, 2010 at 4:26 PM

    Congrats Jack! When my fiancée told me to pick out a ring, I was extremely reasonable. I chose a ring that was under $1K because we’re looking to get out of debt and save up for a down payment on a house. Our wedding isn’t going to exceed $10K (looking to not push past $7 but the way it’s looking, we might be at 5!) I wanted something that looked nice of course but didn’t want to sacrifice our savings or our credit for something that only I would be seeing everyday (sure, coworkers, friends, and family would be eying it but I would have to be the one happy with it). I like to think I’m modest :)

  15. Jenna December 2, 2010 at 5:24 PM

    I’d be interested in learning how much people spend modifying wedding/engagement rings they get from family members.

  16. Kim December 2, 2010 at 8:41 PM

    @ Kevin – University of Virginia, William and Mary, Annapolis, West Point, UT, USAFA, Coast Guard Academy, & GMU are a few of the schools I can name off the top of my head that have college rings that graduates actually wear.

    INSURE IT! Typically your normal renters or homeowners policies do no cover diamond rings or other expensive jewelry. Every woman assumes she’ll never take it off, but sometimes you find your self in an unexpected situation – art class, martial arts, whatever, where you take it off.

    Are Canadian diamonds cheaper?

  17. Cat December 2, 2010 at 9:27 PM


    That is exciting. Diamonds are exciting. As for the depth, girdle, etc, those are all values of the cut, which are very important. A diamond with good proportion is always better. You are right about picking a couple of C’s to focus on though, finding out what is really important to you will make you the happiest. Like one of your comments said, the difference between and FL and an SI are hardly noticeable, but I beg to differ. To the naked eye, yes. But FL means flawless (internally and externally) and FL diamonds are a very small percentage of the worlds diamonds, something like less than 2 percent. Anything over 10x magnification will bring out flaws in an SI range or higher for that matter, but of course, who walks around with a loupe or microscope in their pocket? Having worked in many jewelery stores, I would be personally obsessed with getting a VVs of my own with good color and proportion, regardless of the size.. I feel bad for my future finance!!

    I think if the two C’s you picked for yourself have worked and the diamond looks great to you, than you have done a great job and should be very excited!!!! Congrats again :)

  18. Barb Friedberg December 2, 2010 at 9:49 PM

    I must be one of the few women that considers lots of money spent on jewelry a waste. Give me investments in the brokerage account any day! Congratulations on the engagement. You sound like a smart guy!

  19. Edward - Entry Level Dilemma December 2, 2010 at 11:58 PM

    For anyone who is or is dating someone Irish, a great alternative to a diamond is a claddagh. Claddagh’s are great because turning the heart around so it points towards her heart, it changes from being a engagement ring to a wedding ring!

    Another tradition I’m fond of (but didn’t have access to when I popped the question 2 years ago) is using a family ring. Actually, that’s how claddagh’s were traditionally used, passed down from mother to daughter.

  20. Molly On Money December 3, 2010 at 8:03 AM

    I’m glad you stopped to consider where your diamond was coming from. I recently read an article on Canadian diamond mines and I’m glad the word is getting around.
    I love being a girly-girl but have never understood the obsession with diamond engagement rings. I love color so I go for rubies on my wedding ring. My first wedding ring was a claddagh ring with a ruby in the middle- it cost $50.

  21. Edward December 3, 2010 at 10:13 AM

    @Molly – That’s awesome. The one I bought for my wife has an aquamarine, because that’s her birth stone.

  22. Corina December 5, 2010 at 10:33 AM

    Thank You so much for sharing this article. Its so insightful and I am glad to know when I do look into investing in a diamond piece of jewelry that I’ll be sure it is certified and Canadian.

  23. J. Money December 11, 2010 at 6:58 PM

    Glad you all liked this! Jack told me he had fun getting this all out ;) I had nooooo idea about half this stuff so it was great to learn something new. Good luck to all those currently going through the process! Very very exciting part of your lives.